Essays About Shaivism

History, Philosophy, Beliefs and Practices of Shaivism,

A Brief Bio of Manickavasagar


Manickavasagar was a Brahmin by birth. He took his birth in Tiruvadavur seven miles from Madurai on the banks of Vaigai river. He must have lived between 650 and 692 A.D. Some say that he flourished in the tenth or eleventh century. He secured the friendship of the king of Madurai, Arimardana Pandyan, and became his chief minister. He was also known by the name Vadavurar.

The Pandya king sent Manickavasagar with a lot of money to purchase horses for the State. Manickavasagar started on his journey. On his way, he heard the Kirtan of Siva in a garden in Tiruperundurai. Lord Siva assumed the form of a Siva Yogi and seated Himself, underneath a tree with His Siva Ganas as disciples. He came here to initiate Manickavasagar in Siva Jnana.

Manickavasagar fell at the feet of the Lord and surrendered himself. Lord Siva initiated Manickavasagar into the mysteries of Siva Jnana. Manickavasagar spent away all the money he had brought, in the construction of temples and feeding Siva Bhaktas. He renounced everything, wore a Kowpin and became a Sannyasin. The matter was reported to the king.

The Raja sent a letter to Manickavasagar and ordered him to see him at once. Manickavasagar did not pay any attention. Lord Siva said to Manickavasagar: “I will bring the horses on Avani Mulam. You go in advance. Give this diamond to the Raja”. Manickavasagar proceeded to Madurai, gave the diamond to the Raja and said: “The horses will come here on Avani Mulam”. The Raja became impatient. He did not get any information about the horses two days before Avani Mulam. He thought that Manickavasagar had cheated him. Therefore, he put Manickavasagar in jail and tormented him severely.

The horses came in the morning of Avani Mulam. Lord Siva assumed the form of a groom. How merciful is the Lord towards His devotees! The Raja was highly pleased. He released Manickavasagar from jail and made an apology to him. Through the Lila of the Lord, jackals came in the form of horses. All the horses were turned into jackals. The Raja became terribly angry. He again tortured Manickavasagar. He made him stand in the hot sand-bed of Vaigai river at 12 noon. At once the Lord caused flood in the river to cool His devotee. The whole town was inundated.

The ministers told the Raja that this calamity had happened on account of his ill-treatment of the great Mahatma. The Raja at once released Manickavasagar. He prostrated before him and requested him to stop the flood. As soon as Manickavasagar marched on the bank, the flood subsided. The Raja ordered all the subjects to put one basketful of mud on the bank of the river. All the breaches were made all right except that portion of the breach given to an old woman Vandi. She was in distress. Lord Siva Himself out of compassion appeared as a cooly before that old woman and offered His services to her in return for a handful of rice-flour. He was simply playing. He kept the mud in His hands. The Raja came to know that the cooly of Vandi did not do any work. He became very angry and beat the cooly with a stick. The blow was felt by the Raja and everyone in the town. The cooly vanished. The Raja came to know that this was the Lila of the Lord Siva. He recognised the glory of Manickavasagar also.

Thereupon Manickavasagar met Lord Siva. The Lord ordered him to visit all places of pilgrimage and then go to Chidambaram. Manickavasagar visited Tiruvannamalai, Kanjivaram and other places, sang his Tiruvasagam and lastly went to Chidambaram. Tirukoovai was written by him here.

Then Manickavasagar entered into discussion with a Buddhist teacher and defeated him. Goddess Sarasvati made the Buddhist teacher and his disciples dumb. Then the Buddhistic king approached Manickavasagar and said: “You made my teacher and all his disciples dumb. If you can make my dumb daughter speak, I and my subjects will embrace Saivism”. Manickavasagar then put some questions to the dumb daughter of the king. She began to speak. Then the Buddhistic king and all his subjects became Saivites. Manickavasagar then made the Buddhistic teacher and his disciples speak.

Then Lord Siva approached Manickavasagar in the form of a Brahmin. Manickavasagar repeated the whole Tiruvasagam to the Brahmin. The Brahmin wrote down everything on the palmyra leaves and wrote in the end: “Manickavasagar repeated this, Tiruchittambala Udayar wrote this”. The Brahmin kept this in the step of Panchakshara of the Chitsabhai. Then the Brahmins of Chidambaram showed this to Manickavasagar and requested him to tell the meaning of the verses. Manickavasagar said: “This Tillai Nataraja is the purport of these stanzas”. He at once merged himself in the feet of Nataraja at the age of thirtytwo.

The poems of Manickavasagar are fiftytwo in number. They are all collected together under the title of Tiruvasagam. They are most beautiful, sublime and inspiring. They contain ornamental poetry. South Indians sing Tiruvasagam daily. The hearts of those who hear these hymns melt at once.

Dear readers! You can understand from the life of Manickavasagar, that Lord Siva becomes the slave of His devotees.


Source: Reproduced, with the general permission, from Lord Siva and His Worship, WWW edition 2000, By Sri Swami Sivananda © The Divine Life Trust Society